BA concerned as Scottish Parliament considers 'retrograde' change to business rates

BA concerned as Scottish Parliament considers 'retrograde' change to business rates

The Scottish Parliament is considering plans to give local authorities more control over business rates, sparking "extreme concern" from the Booksellers Association. 

MSPs on the Local Government Committee endorsed an amendment to devolve business rates to councils, in one of about 30 amendments to the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill earlier this month. Currently business rates in Scotland are set by the Scottish government. 

The plans to devolve powers to councils have been criticised by retail groups, including the BA, who said the proposals “seem like a retrograde step”. The Scottish Grocers Federation said “independent retailers run the risk of simply becoming a cash generator for cash-strapped councils.”

In a letter to the Scottish Parliament, BA m.d. Meryl Halls said: “We have been campaigning for many years for fundamental business rates reform across the UK, and we would deplore any action which might jeopardise the reliefs that exist and which might cause bills to rise even higher—especially at a time when the high street is extremely fragile and retail labouring under many burdens.”

Halls said the BA would like to see a full consultation and an impact assessment on the policy change before it progresses in legislation, “to better understand what that will mean for ratepayers, for existing reliefs, and for local councils themselves".

“Our organisation covers both the UK and Ireland, and we know from our experience in Northern Ireland—where local authorities set business rates—that our members there pay a fifth more in business rates than they do in Scotland. We would ask members of the Scottish Parliament to think again about this amendment,” said Halls. 

MSPs will vote on the amendments to the bill in 2020.